Chevrolet Clinches GT1 Manufacturers Championship with Victory at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – On a picture-perfect day at Road America, Corvette Racing turned in another perfect performance. A .132-second victory by Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in the No. 4 Compuware Corvette C6.R over their Corvette Racing teammates Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell mathematically clinched the GT1 manufacturers championship for Chevrolet and the team championship for Corvette Racing.
Today’s victory was the fourth win in five races for Gavin and Beretta, including their victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The “two Ollies” moved to within three points of Fellows and O’Connell (127-130) in the race for the GT1 drivers championship with three races remaining.
“Chevrolet races to win in every series, so it’s a great day when Chevy wraps up its fifth consecutive ALMS manufacturers championship,” said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. “There was some intense, exciting racing on the track today. If the race had gone one more lap, the outcome might have been different.”
An unscheduled pit stop proved to be the decisive moment for the No. 4 Corvette C6.R. Gavin started on the GT1 pole for the 2-hour, 45-minute race, and led the GT1 class through the first hour and 13 minutes. Then on a restart following the first caution period, Gavin had to battle the Saleen S7R of Johnny Mowlem, with unexpected results.
“The Saleen made a banzai run past me on the restart, and as he came by, he gave me a smack on the side,” Gavin recalled. “Then he left the door open going into Turn 1 and I dived up the inside and took the position. Unfortunately I locked the brakes and flat-spotted the left front tire with that pass. I continued to race, but the performance was definitely down and we had to change the tire. I was fortunate when the next caution came out; it was an opportune time for us to pit.”
Beretta replaced Gavin and the team changed four tires and refueled the car under the yellow flag. That stop put the No. 4 Corvette out of sequence with its sister car, but dropped Beretta to fourth in the class standings. Nineteen minutes later, he was back in second.
The No. 3 Corvette C6.R pitted for a green-flag stop at the 1-hour, 53-minute mark. O’Connell replaced Fellows, and the team changed four tires and refueled. Three minutes later, the No . 4 was in the pits for its third stop; a quick 18-second stop for gas only gave Beretta a commanding lead.
“We only had to fill half a tank, and that’s faster than doing a full stop with a change of tires,” explained crew chief Ray Gongla. “That’s where we gained position, and that made the difference. It just happened that the pit stops benefited the No. 4 Corvette today.”
“The car was a little difficult to drive at the end because the tires had so many laps on them,” Beretta reported. “The last thing I wanted was to have contact with my teammate, so I was careful in traffic and didn’t take any risks. It was important for Corvette Racing to finish first and second.”
“It’s amazing how these races can turn around,” added Gavin. “We got a bit of luck today. Olivier did a fantastic job in that last stint, and it was obviously difficult to drive on those tires after so many laps. He performed extremely well under intense pressure from Johnny. As always, it was close between the No. 3 and No. 4 Corvettes.”
O’Connell cut Beretta’s margin from 15 seconds to a heartbeat in the final 45 minutes, racing nose-to-tail with his teammate in the closing laps.
“I think the No. 3 car was the stronger of the two today, but sometimes things don’t go your way,” O’Connell conceded. “The fact that we could come back strong at the finish shows that we had a great race car today. Anytime it’s a 1-2 Corvette finish, it’s a good result.”
Fellows agreed: “We were running race laps only a second off our qualifying times, and that’s just outstanding,” said the Canadian. “The car was working really well after we made a tire pressure adjustment on the first pit stop. The C6.R is an absolute treat to drive around a race track like Road America. When you have a good car, there aren’t many tracks that are as much fun as this one.”
With the manufacturer and team championships now decided, the race for the GT1 drivers championship will be in the spotlight in the final three rounds of the 10-race series.
“Everybody at Corvette Racing has done a fantastic job with the new C6.R to win the manufacturers championship with three races to go,” said Gavin. “Things have fallen into place for Olivier and myself over the last few races, and we just want to keep that momentum going. It’s going to be really close through the end of the year.”
Corvette Racing’s next event is the Labor Day Weekend Grand Prix of Mosport in Bowmanville, Ont., on September 2-4. The eighth round of the 10-race American Le Mans Series will be televised live on SPEED Channel on Sunday, September 4, at 3 p.m. EDT (check local listings).
Generac 500 at Road America GT1 Results
1. Gavin/Beretta, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 71
2. O’Connell/Fellows, Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 71
3. Bertolini/de Simone, Maserati MC12, 69
4. Weickardt/Rugolo, Dodge Viper, 66
5. Figge/Dalziel, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, 61 (suspension)
6. Borcheller/Mowlem, Saleen S7R, 58 (mechanical)
September 4, Labor Day Weekend Grand Prix of Mosport, Mosport International Raceway, Bowmanville, Ont., Canada TV: SPEED, September 4, 3 p.m. EDT
Release Date: August 21, 2005